Qatar World Cup scheduling problems serve to strengthen FIFA stigma of incompetence


Seriously, what was FIFA doing during the bidding process for the 2022 World Cup?

It’s a subject that has been beaten until the horse is no longer recognizable, but with new scheduling problems cropping up in the last few days, one struggles to push out the recurring thoughts of, “honestly, how on EARTH did this happen?”

Put aside the slave-like, inhumane working conditions which have still not been fixed. Put aside the fact Qatar still has to, you know, build a city for this to happen. Didn’t even one FIFA voter think to themselves on their trip to Qatar, “my goodness, you know, it’s kind of hot here?”

It’s not at all new news that FIFA has looked into holding the 2022 World Cup in the winter. But now, given the insane, nearly unlivable temperatures that exist in Qatar during the summer, FIFA can’t even figure out a viable timeframe to hold a normal World Cup in the winter.

According to multiple reports, FIFA is under pressure to shorten the entire World Cup tournament process. With club seasons running 9 months out of the year, the Winter Olympics in January and February, and the heat ruling out the summer and even spring months, the only option appears to be to play in November and December. And with club seasons squeezing that opening tight, the World Cup may just have to be shortened.

“Stakeholders are concerned about playing in the summer, so we have to change to winter,” said Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation. “That’s January or November. They have to make a choice – either A or B. But I think everybody agrees that in January or February it’s difficult to play for the reasons that I mentioned before [Winter Olympics]. The only option that I see is November/December.”

That likely means while the tournament structure itself would remain intact, time between games would be shortened considerably. An anonymous source told the Press Association, “It is almost certain that November/December will be agreed but the trade-offs will be for a cut in the length of the World Cup and the preparation period beforehand.”

The problems have reached such farcical levels that nobody at FIFA can even get the alibi right. Are they trying to argue that these issues were something that just sort of materialized out of thin air after the bidding process had been completed? Or are they trying to convince us that this was the plan all along? Because I don’t think anyone is really sure what their excuse is for allowing this circus to take place.

It’s mind-boggling that over four years after officially handing Qatar the World Cup, they still have absolutely no idea when it will happen, or even how long it will take. And shortening the World Cup isn’t a Get Out Of Jail Free Card for FIFA either. For all the talk about the summer heat, the winter isn’t all that much better in a nation that averages around 86 degrees in November. Shortening the World Cup would mean players have shorter rest periods to recover from playing in such conditions, yet another risk involved with the country.

In addition, the tournament will squeeze the entire club and country calendar for the surrounding months, potentially meaning players would have virtually no off season that summer. They’d be playing year round. But don’t worry, Qatar is such a small country, there’s no travel!

And the battle with leagues still isn’t done and dusted. While most European leagues take an extended break for the Christmas holiday, that extends mostly into January, and certainly doesn’t stretch long enough to fit an entire World Cup. England’s schedule is almost certainly going to be completely diced into pieces, with Christmas generally the busiest time of the season calendar.

All of this nonsense brings up old feelings we’ve rehashed about this topic for years, but that doesn’t mean the feelings are any weaker. How stupid, exactly, did FIFA think the fans and media really are? How did they expect to pull this one over the entire planet? The bidding process is meant to determine the most beneficial country to host a monstrous sporting event. But what, exactly, was beneficial about Qatar? It’s obvious what FIFA was thinking when they handed Qatar the World Cup: nothing. Now they’re forced to scramble to make sense of the mess, and they aren’t doing a very good job.

Related: Qatar wants more sporting events. This should end well.